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Chooks and Books

Chook: (n.) Chicken

We drove down to Wellington yesterday to drop Lisa and Sky off at the airport. Although we heard that they encountered some last minute visa troubles at the airport they are (hopefully) off to Australia and Vietnam by now and we are adjusting to our new home in Wanganui. There are lots of benefits that come along with housesitting for a permaculturalist. We’ve found ourselves with an instant group of like-minded friends who are involved in various eco-projects around the community. We’ve also inherited Lisa’s beautiful garden. If we can keep the pokikos (crazy looking bird also known as the NZ chicken) away we should have some fresh veggies in a few weeks.
Nelson has already begun diving into his favorite part of the house, Lisa’s book collection. Still reeling from the sale of most of our books this summer, we’ve found some of our old favorites on her shelves (for Dani: Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, for Nelson: Permaculcture 1 & 2 by Bill Mollison).
We have also been kept rather busy by the chooks. Lisa keeps her layers in a movable cage, so that they can be moved once they clear the grass and fertilize the soil in one area. In NZ this means swapping locations about once every two weeks. It is a handy technique for adding nutrients to depleted soil and keeping chooks happy and healthy through foraging. Well, while moving the coop, the chickens snuck under the fence and escaped. For hand-reared chickens this is not a problem, but our wards are not hand-reared and thus far have not responded well to our efforts to recage them. They are now three days out of their coop now and are loving every minute. Since there are no predators in NZ at all we aren’t worried for their safety, but they are doing some serious damage to our garden. There will definitely be no more seedlings planted until they are captured. We’ve heard all we need to do it grab them by their feet. If you hold a chicken upside-down they immediately “fall-asleep” because all of the blood rushes to their head. So far we can’t get within 5 feet of them before they freak out. We have tried luring them back to their home with grain, and today all three of the escapees were actually right next to the door. Unfortunately the only thing that actually went into the coop was one of those darned pokikos. Tonight’s midnight mission will be our final attempt before calling on the experienced hands of our Quaker neighbors.

Heaps of Sheep

Heaps: (adj.) a lot

We read an article in the paper the other day announcing proudly that while New Zealand has been the butt of jokes for years because of its 40:1 sheep:human population, that population has in fact halved and now there are only 20 times as many sheep per people in New Zealand. The fact that this was a headline in a national paper, may be self-defeating.

We had heard that in New Zealand there were more sheep than people, but after seeing factory farms in the US that fact didn’t seem too surprising. Undoubtedly if they can fit tens of thousands of cattle into a square mile, then it shouldn’t be hard to surpass a population of four million people spread out over two islands. But here in New Zealand factory farming, feed lots, and corn-fed cattle is unheard of. “What do you mean you can’t find grass-fed meat where you live? What else would cows eat?” asks our friend Lisa. Not surprisingly, “spray-free” fruits and veggies are also much easier to find here. The things we take for granted in the states. When did “conventional” foods become the ones that require the most sprays, shipping, processing, and corn?

Here are a few photos of our six hour bus ride from Hamilton to Wanganui, where we will be house-sitting for 9 weeks. We rode almost the entire length of the north island and passed endless miles of fields with sheep and cattle grazing. No doubt, millions of sheep and cattle grazing happily, and not one feed lot.